The Atlantic Ocean: Essays on Britain and America

For Andrew O’Hagan, growing up on the Ayrshire coast, the Atlantic Ocean was a constant presence, as was the promised land of America that lay beyond it. In a series of linked essays, O’Hagan here investigates the ocean, and in particular the two contrasting but strangely interdependent countries that occupy its Eastern and Western edges – the United States and the United Kingdom. Peter Conrad wrote in the ‘O’Hagan is a novelist whose essays often scourge the fiction-mongering of our leaders: he mocks George W Bush for mimicking the swagger of movie cowboys and Pope John Paul II for promulgating sanctimonious falsehoods. But at his most impressive, O’Hagan demonstrates that fiction can compel us to redefine reality, as when hurricane Katrina, tossing hotels and casinos through the air and wrapping chandeliers in Spanish moss, transforms the grotesque fantasies of Southern Gothic into ‘a form of social realism’. Lies dribble from the slack mouths of politicians; if we want to know the truth about the false world we live in, we need to consult the writers of fiction.’

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